Why does waiting too long to eat make me bloated?
May 3, 2014 5:06 PM   Subscribe

So, I've had this issue as long as I can remember where if I wait too long between meals my stomach becomes painfully bloated. I've got some techniques for dealing with this when it happens, but what I want to know--and Dr. Google cannot tell me-is: why exactly is the lack of food is causing this?

I get this pins and needles feeling in my esophagus (I guess from gas) followed soon by my stomach bloating up. This will happen if I wait for more than about 5 hours between meals and before I have any actual hunger pains. If I eat something at the very first sign it will keep it from getting worse. Also helpful are Altoids and chewable antacids.

I've found message boards and such where there are people complaining of the same thing, but none of them seem to know what causes it. The relative effectiveness of the antacids makes me think it could be a stomach acid issue.

Possibly related: I have never belched in my life (yes, really, not even as a baby according to my mom) and CANNOT. I sometimes have air coming up my esophagus and I can feel it stick in my throat and make a clicking noise. Eventually it goes back down but I get stuck in this loop where it goes back up and down and up and down. However, this stuck air feeling is not the same as the pins and needles feeling in my esophagus that precedes the bloating.

Does anyone have any insights? Thanks!
posted by fozzie_bear to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could it be from swallowing air? In which case, you'll just have to pay more attention.

I used to be like you concerning burping. I figured out how a few years ago. I call it The Great Discovery of 2006. Yes, I'm that proud of it.
posted by Neekee at 5:50 PM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

This happens with me too. I can't go that long without food and if i do i get an increase and bloating. I try to have many small meals throughout the day. I also drink ginger tea to help with gas. Peppermint tea is calming. Have you tried gas-x or bean? I think if you have never belched in your life that you might want to go see a gastroenterologist if you can afford it. At bare minimum bring it up with a doctor or your primary care physician. I hope some of the suggestions that I have provided will be helpful to you. It sounds like it must be painful. I know when I have terrible gas I have shooting pain into my shoulder. strange. I feel you girl, best of luck.
posted by Jewel98 at 7:39 PM on May 3, 2014

In peptic ulcer disease, classically, a gastric ulcer causes symptoms of discomfort immediately after eating, but a duodenal ulcer causes symptoms of discomfort several hours after eating. Check the link for more information.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:58 PM on May 3, 2014

For me I think it is stomach acid and acid reflux. Depending on what you eat (or drink water) it can make it worse. I just try to eat more often.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:09 PM on May 3, 2014

An empty gut produces gas. Gas bloats you. This isn't pathological, this is how the human GI tract works.

The other stuff -- not being able to burp, etc -- might mean something. But the bloating is completely normal.
posted by telegraph at 8:55 PM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have decent insurance and can afford it, get thee to a gastroenterologist. I had some different, but similarly strange and unexplained GI issues, and while several doctors guessed at what it was - lactose intolerance? celiac disease? peptic ulcers? Crohn's? - none of the guesses were correct and it took and endoscopy and colonoscopy to get the answer. With that done, I have a diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and I feel better. If you do this, make sure even if things look normal, they do a bunch of biopsies anyway.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 9:12 PM on May 3, 2014

When you're hungry, or getting ready to eat, or just because it's a time of day you normally do eat, the parietal cells of your stomach will produce gastric acid in advance of the arrival of food.

But if no food actually shows up, then you've got a potentially dangerous amount of acid hanging around in your stomach with nothing to use it up, and it turns out that the stomach has other cells which can produce bicarbonate to neutralize that excess acid.

And when acid and bicarbonate meet (think of vinegar and baking soda), they produce carbon dioxide gas, which, since you can't burp it out, causes bloating.

As far as the pins and needles are concerned, I drink about 2 liters of sparkling water a day, and I've noticed that when I burp but keep the gas from coming all the way out by closing my throat, I'll get a pins and needles feeling which I attribute to the carbon dioxide dissolving in the moisture of my throat. If this is what's happening to you, it's interesting that some of the carbon dioxide can escape from your stomach before whatever valve is keeping you from burping locks up and the bloating begins.
posted by jamjam at 11:43 PM on May 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

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